Saturday, October 31, 2020

Writing about failure for #GLAMBlogClub

Failure can be a way of learning. It can also be uncomfortable, disconcerting, at times distressing or even very traumatic. It can depend on the scale of the failure. I think there are different kinds of failure, including failure you can learn from, and failure which has catastrophic consequences (and these are not the only kinds of failure, there are more including failure which is out of your control).  You can learn from the second kind of failure but there are usually really bad things happening along the way (for example think of how the COVID-19 pandemic is happening differently in each country, state and territory, how the climate crisis is not being dealt with and in relation to systemic racism and injustice towards Indigenous people, as well as the experience of other systemic racism - and comments about this). There are many more examples I could provide for failure with catastrophic outcomes and these broader failures have an impact. In our work places (galleries, libraries, archives, museums and records repositories) it is mostly the failure you can learn from, but the fire in the National Museum of Brazil is of the catastrophic kind (see also Blue Shield for their work or disaster prevention). 

Have a look at this earlier post I wrote about failure (and yes I know that at least one of the people I quote is contentious).

I also think we can shy from talking about failure, and I find this unhelpful.  I think it is better to go 'that could have worked better' (which can be a way of describing failure without resorting to a 'woe is me' approach), and see what can be done better next time, rather than pretending every thing is fine.  We can do better with our collections (this looks a helpful session to participate in) and services (think about who is invisible in your library, and this US information from 2015 may be helpful).  We can make these changes because otherwise we continue to fail at least some parts of our communities.

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